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Sadists and sport at Eton


An Eton education
John Julius Norwich Writer
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Latin and Greek... we were three or four hours a day we spent on Latin and Greek, much too much looking back on it. We were taught mathematics rather well, I think, and there were science labs although I’m not a scientist, I don’t know how good the scientific tuition was but we vaguely... we did simple chemical experiments and we made bangs and smells and things. And music was very, very underestimated, I thought. That was one of my principle complaints if I had to go back on it all now. To think that… if we had music lessons – I had piano lessons, I’d always had piano lessons – and if you had piano lessons, you got half an hour a week which was really nothing and absolutely no time to practise. And playing the piano or playing any instrument is all practice. You need very, very, little tuition. After that you’re really teaching yourself by practising. And they work you very, very hard at Eton. The only pianos were in the music schools which were quite a long way away – not very good little uprights – and there was just no time to go and practise so nobody ever did. And the result is that I don’t think anybody ever learned an instrument well at Eton unless they were exceptionally gifted in which case, perhaps, their gift was noticed and they were given special treatment. That never happened to me. There was a thing called the Musical Society but that was largely choral. And no theatre at all, no swimming pool. We swam in a little tributary or estuary of the Thames called Cuckoo Weir which was pretty nasty, pretty murky, dysentery I should think in every drop.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Eton College

Duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018